It's hard to imagine Edith Piaf crooning "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in a smoke-free jazz club, but were she still alive, the Showcase is precisely the kind of joint she'd play. Owner Joe Segal's been booking bands since the rock stylings of Elvis and Chuck Berry pushed jazz to the popular fringe. On any given night, Segal, who has hosted legends like Ornette Coleman and Duke Ellington, still holds court in his trademark baseball cap, introducing bands and cautioning the audience not to talk during a performance.
Along with Segal, the ghosts of be-bop and jazz loom large. Huge portraits and small photos of Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Art Blakey line the walls. A Chairman Mao-size portrait of Charlie Parker backdrops the stage, along with a pair of velvet curtains that would be at home at Back to the Future's Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
Unlike the typical smoky, cramped, dingy confines of most jazz clubs, the Showcase is a comfortable candle-lit space with ample tables and wide aisles. The focus is on the players and not the decor. While you can still catch the occasional legend like saxophonist Von Freeman blowing on a Saturday night, the showcase long ago opened its doors to young lions respectful to the genre such as Nicholas Payton and Joshua Redman.
There's no minimum drink requirement, though tickets will set you back $20-$25 (if you hit the early show, you can sometimes stay for the second without purchasing another ticket). Jazz Showcase is 21+ unless accompanied by one's parents.
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant